Looking for Love and Sex Online is Old News
For the better part of the past two decades online bulletin boards like Craigslist, dating websites such as eHarmony and Match.com, and endless pay-for-play sexual hookup websites have provided the single, lonely, horny, cheating, or simply bored man or woman with the fastest and most direct route to meet, date, romance, and/or simply have sex.
Finding Sex Faster Than a Table for Two.
As modern life has shifted away from the home or office-based computers and become all about the smartphone, we now have apps that allow us to literally "hook-up" on the go. Smartphone "friend finder" apps like Ashley Madison (for marrieds and partnered individuals seeking "out of the roost" sex), Skout and Blendr (for single straight men and women), Grindr (to find male-male partners) or Pink Cupid (to find lesbians and bisexual partners) -- among many others -- are actually friend finders in name only. More accurately, these more accurately named, "sex-finder" apps are designed to help you geo-locate an immediately available, readily accessible romantic or sexual partner much in the same way that Yelp or Citysearch will direct you to a nearby four star sushi bar or Italian deli with a good smartphone and the flick of your index finger.
Given the fact that nearly half of all U.S. households now own at least one smartphone, it seems reasonable to assume that increasing numbers of people are eagerly following this app-created breadcrumb trail to sex with strangers wherever and whenever time and circumstances allow.
Once downloaded and opened, sex finder apps bring up an instant photo grid of potentially available sex partners, presorted by location, gender, age and/or sexual preference -- all on your smartphone screen. In crowded urban areas these apps often locate multiple people within a mere few hundred feet!
And just like that, the days of being rejected when out clubbing or trying to pick someone up at a party are a thing of the past. With sex apps there's no muss, no fuss, just the act itself and a handshake on the way out, thank you very much.
Megan, a single medical student in her mid-20s, talks about her sex app experience:
When out at a club a few months ago I decided to give one of these apps a try and turned on Blendr. I swear, in less than two minutes this guy I'd never met or seen -- David -- started texting me. It turned out that he was hanging out with friends at a bar across the street. Feeling safe, with my friends all around, I texted back, asking him to come over and I'd buy him a drink. In less than five minutes, there he was, arms crossed, big smile on his face, right in front of me. It turns out he's a really sweet, straight, single, professional ballet dancer. Now how sexy is that? And the great part for both of us is he isn't looking for a relationship, and neither am I, at least not for the foreseeable future. My school and training schedule is just too crazy for that. But David and I did hook up that night, and quite a few times since, totally without strings, but also having a lot of fun.
Thanks to smartphone apps, seeking and finding fast hot casual sex has become, much like real estate, all about location. The more sizable and interesting the nearby crowd, the better your shot at finding partners. As such, any jam-packed venue is now a prime cruising spot for app-aware people looking to get laid. This entire genre of apps has in effect turned your local dog park, museum, mall, and crowded train station into a gigantic "singles" bar (though not everyone is single). It's just so easy -- just turn on your app. And if you have traditionally been the kind of person too shy to make the first move -- no worries, as long as your app is open it is actively signaling your availability, so it won't be long before someone finds you.
The Dangers of Convenient Sex
Unfortunately, much like a casino app in the hands of a compulsive gambler, those struggling with sexual addiction and similar sexual problems see sex finder apps as the equivalent of crack cocaine. And, as with all addictions, whether to substances or behaviors, the consequences to the active abuser can be profound.
Rico, a 32-year-old gay guy, had this to say about his experience:
Just after a friend introduced me to Grindr, by the end of the first week, without giving it much thought, I'd had three previously unknown sex partners over to my place. In a heartbeat Grindr became my #1 distraction from stress, tedium, and loneliness, but it also quickly replaced dating and most of my social life. Bored at work? Grindr. Sitting at a slow ballgame? Grindr. Out of town and in a lonely hotel room? Grindr. A weekend without plans? Grindr. And so it went. When out to dinner with friends I would set my phone to silent so it would merely vibrate in my pocket when someone was looking to connect with me. Before long using the app started to take over whatever free time I had. I found myself leaving the app on all the time and big surprise, my life quickly became all about the search for sex. Within three months I ended up getting fired for sneaking out of work to hook up. And just as bad, two guys I genuinely liked dating dumped me when they found me cruising Grindr while they were in the other room making dinner or on the phone. They did the right thing, I get that. But I still haven't been able to put the thing away and stay away.
Rico's story aside, sex finder apps have for most healthy people generated a reliable new source of casual romantic and sexual encounters, offering a readily available, mostly free source of brief sexual encounters and connection.
Are these apps right for you?
One important recommendation for anyone choosing to enter the "friend finder" world is to make sure they have genuine clarity about what it is they want.
If you're devoted to finding a spouse or long-term partner, a traditional dating website is probably a much better option than Blendr.
If you are in a primary relationship and looking to cheat -- apps likely are your fastest route to sex and potential relationship problems. But do remember to 'play safe', especially if you're planning to keep this secret from a spouse.
If your primary interest is casual sex, sex locator smartphone apps will likely fit the bill.
Regardless of your situation or goal, remember that when using these apps, as do all technologies that involve intensely pleasurable activities, caution should be exercised, particularly by anyone who has a history of losing themselves in escalating, obsessive quests for sexual intensity.